You’re interested in Hiking for Beginners, but don’t know how to get started. No problem. With a little planning and forethought, you’ll be on your way.
First, give a little thought as to why you want to go hiking. Do you enjoy the outdoors? Are you looking for a quiet stress relief from your daily routine? Are you looking for a good family activity? Maybe you simply want to get more exercise and fresh air. Your reasons for wanting to hike will determine whether you go for shorter walks in the woods, or a grueling multi-day hike with lots of equipment.
Enough why. You want to know how! Good hiking for beginners starts with good trail selection.
- Search for parks in your area. This could be local or state parks. Maybe national parks or forests.
- Look at their hiking trail descriptions.
- Select something within your current physical ability and something that interests you.
- If you’re not in the best shape, and you like waterfalls, look for a short mile or two hike (several kilometers) that goes to a waterfalls. Select a trail rated easy.
- If you’re in great shape and like scenic views, select a longer difficult trail to the top of a mountain.
Some trails are loop hikes that bring you all the way back to your starting point. Other trails are what I call “out and back”. The trail ends at a stream, waterfall, or scenic view. You turn around and hike back to the beginning. Trail descriptions usually give one-way distances. For “out and back” trails, double the distance to know how far you will be hiking. Once you get used to reading trail descriptions and maps, you’ll find that some trails end at other trails, and you can piece together your own loop hike using several trails.
Hiking for beginners does not require a lot of expensive hiking gear. If your total distance is less than five miles, just wear comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots. Dress in layers you can remove as you warm up. While some people wear shorts, others prefer pants to protect against scratches and insects.
Always bring water. It’s also a good idea to bring a snack. Trail mix and beef jerky travel well. Fruit is nice to have, but doesn’t travel as well, so be careful not to bruise it. Occasionally, depending on destination, you’ll need sunscreen or insect repellent. A small backpack would be helpful, but is not a necessity for a first hike.
You should hike with somebody. Don’t hike alone. Let friends and family know where you’re going and when you plan to return. Some parks charge a fee. Some are free. When you arrive at the park, before finding your trail, it’s a good idea to use the restroom, if there is one. When on the trail, respect others. No yelling. No loud music. Most people are there for peace and quiet, and to enjoy nature.
Most park trails are marked with colored blazes, which are small paint markings on trees, rocks, or posts. The trail description will usually state the color of the blaze used for that trail. The pathway is normally worn from foot traffic and easy to follow.
If your trail has a blue blaze, you’ll see a blue marker every five minutes or so. The distance between blazes varies from park to park. A double blaze is often used to signify a change, probably a turn. If you don’t see a blaze for a while, don’t panic. Turn around and follow the same path back until you find a blaze. If you can’t figure out the correct path for the trail, don’t risk getting lost. Enjoy the walk back to the beginning of the trail.
Hopefully you find hiking for beginners helpful. A couple final tips. First, leave no trace.Whatever you carry in, take out with you. Litter has no place, especially in nature. Second, hiking for beginners is all about relaxing and enjoying. Follow the planning steps presented above, and you’ll be ready to do your second hike when you’re done with the first.